Friday, November 12, 2010

American Air Museum, IWM Duxford

click photo to enlarge
Yesterday I made my second visit to the Imperial War Museum (IWM) air museum at Duxford in Cambridgeshire. You don't have to be interested in historic aircraft to enjoy a day out there, but it does help. The site is a former RAF airfield that was used by the United States in World War 2. Consequently it's very appropriate that the two main exhibition buildings - both of them new, purpose-built structures - are dedicated to British and Commonwealth aircraft, and to United States aircraft.

The "Airspace" houses a wide range of British-built aeroplanes including a Concorde, Avro Vulcan, Avro Lancaster, TSR2, Tornado, Harrier, de Havilland Mosquito, English Electric Lightning and Canberra and a host of others, currently totalling more than 30 machines. The building itself is enormous and has a gallery, exhibitions, small rooms, and an adjoining hangar/work bay that on the day of our visit held a Shackleton, Victor and Typhoon, all looking like they were being prepared for exhibition. The American Air Museum is smaller, with a centrepiece of a B-52 that is surrounded by 19 other aircraft including the SR-71 Blackbird, a B-17, Phantom, F-100, F-111, Huey helicopter, Liberator and many other machines of the twentieth century. On display outside is an F-15.

Of the two buildings you'd have to say that the Airspace is big, capacious and functional, while the American Air Museum is smaller and a much more attractive and interesting structure. It is the design of Sir Norman Foster and was constructed by Arup. The principal components are a curved, 6000 ton concrete roof made of 924 sections and a removable glass wall that overlooks the airfield. The visitor enters at high level and descends to the aircraft on the main floor by curved ramps to left and right. Alhough the design brief sought a neutral backdrop against which to display the aircraft, to anyone interested in architecture, the structure grabs you the moment you walk in, and is in no sense "neutral". My photograph is taken with the Canon EF 24-105mm f4 L IS UM from towards the top of one of the ramps and gives a flavour of the elegant curves of the building as well an indication of how the exhibits are arranged.

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 24mm
F No: f5.6
Shutter Speed: 1/80
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -1.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On